Australia's biggest attraction is its natural beauty. The landscape varies from endless sunbaked horizons to dense tropical rainforest to wild southern beaches. Scattered along the coasts, its cities blend a European enthusiasm for art and food with a laid-back love of sport and the outdoors.
Visitors expecting to see an opera in Sydney one night and watch the sunset on Ayers Rock the next will have to re-think their grasp of geography of this huge country. It is this sheer vastness that gives Australia - and its diverse population - much of its character.
You can read about the regions of Australia below, or just give us a call and ask for assistance in choosing where you should go. Many of us are from Down Under, and we love to chat.
Cairns 1,553 miles from Sydney by road, most visitors fly in to enjoy the tropical climate and proximity to many icons. The Great Barrier Reef is only one-and-a-half hours away by boat. The Daintree National Park and Cape Tribulation, about 80 miles north of Cairns, are popular areas for experiencing a tropical rainforest.
The city has used its natural surrounds to its advantage with the construction of a beach and several attractions for visitors. Among them are the Tjapulai Aboriginal Cultural Park and the Kuranda Skyrail Gondola Cableway, which extends for 5 miles over World Heritage Rainforest.
Great Barrier Reef Most travelers to Australia want to visit The Great Barrier Reef, which is not a single mass, but more than 2,800 coral reefs and 900 islands stretching 1,250 miles. These reefs boast a diversity of species rivaled only by that of tropical rainforests. Snorkeling, diving and even spending the night on the Reef are all great ways to experience it. For those who don’t feel comfortable in the water, glass bottom boats and helicopter tours convey the beauty and magnitude of the Reef without the discomfort.
Great Barrier Reef Islands Although there are over 900 Great Barrier Reef islands, only a few have visitor facilities and fewer have accommodation. Of those, you can choose from luxury 5+ star resorts, to fun, family-style hotels, to permanent tents. Each Barrier Reef Island has a unique personality and your Destination Specialist can help you decide which best suits you.
Daintree National Park is the world’s oldest and second largest, and encompasses the 135 million year old Daintree rainforest, another great visitor attraction. Daintree NP is accessed from Cairns and most visitors do so by day trip, but if you have the time we highly recommend you stay for a night or two in the Park in one of the fine Rainforest resorts, and really come to appreciate this wondrous forest and its restorative ambience. Ask your Destination Specialist about Rainforest Spas.
Port Douglas Many people are familiar with the city of Cairns but only an hour up the road you’ll find what was once a small vacation village on Four Mile Beach and is now a bustling gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree National Park. Low-rise development helps maintain Port Douglas’ old-fashioned charm. A wide range of accommodation, and just the right number of shops and restaurants, make ‘Port’ a good choice for those who prefer a small town atmosphere.
Kuranda The second most popular day tour destination after the Barrier Reef, Kuranda is a picturesque mountain retreat 15 miles northwest of Cairns. Visitors have the choice of traveling to Kuranda by coach, a scenic rail ride, or aerially on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Shoppers delight: the famous markets and many aboriginal art galleries.
Palm Cove Another alternative to the town of Cairns, and a better choice for beach lovers, Palm Cove, only 20 minutes north of Cairns, is one of the prettiest seaside villages in the area. Palm Cove regularly wins awards for having the cleanest beach in the region and has established itself as Australia’s finest Spa destination. Ask your Destination Specialist for their Spa resort recommendation.
Whitsunday Islands are a part of the Great Barrier Reef Island chain, and, like their northern counterparts, have unique personalities and something different to offer the visitor. The availability of 3, 4 and 5 star resorts means that there truly is an Island for every budget. For sailors – both experienced and novice - skippered or bare-boat sailing in the Whitsundays is increasingly popular.
Fraser Island, accessed by surface or air from Brisbane, is the world’s largest sand island and is famous for its dingos, wildlife, native birds, rainforests, freshwater lakes, whale watching, and stunning scenery. Fraser Island is not a Barrier Reef Island and offers those interested in natural history a completely different, and equally rewarding, experience.
Sunshine Coast Those in search of Australia’s best beaches will find them, and a lot more, along the Sunshine Coast, just an hour’s drive north of Brisbane. One of Australia’s most popular domestic vacation spots, the seaside towns of the Sunshine Coast are also gateways to the Crocodile Hunter’s Australia Zoo. Steve Irwin passed away in September, 2006 but his magnificent Zoo lives on, and is a favorite attraction for families.
Brisbane A river city, Brisbane is relaxed and enjoys good weather year round. Outdoor cafes and restaurants abound, the locals are laid-back about most things, except art - Brisbane is rapidly developing into Australia’s arts capital. A stepping off point for the Australia Zoo, Fraser Island and the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Brisbane is also an international gateway for Qantas Airways.
Gold Coast Only an hour’s drive south of Brisbane, the Gold Coast is Australia’s most beloved playground, the Gold Coast has something for everyone – for the kids, Theme Parks such as Seaworld and Dreamworld, and for the young at heart, golf courses, restaurants, shopping and a casino for the adults. Best of all, fantastic beaches for everyone. The Gold Coast Hinterland is lush and verdant and an attractive contrast to the coastal scenery.
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NEW SOUTH WALES
Sydney The star of the South Pacific, Sydney is a stunningly beautiful, eminently accessible, vibrant, diverse city. The Opera House and Harbour Bridge – don’t miss climbing it – and the historical area known as The Rocks are within close walking distance of each other. Choosing a hotel in this area makes touring easy.
Blue Mountains Only 2 hours to the west of Sydney, these are not really mountains at all but a range of sheer cliffs. The scenery is grand, outdoor activities abound and many charming accommodation options are available. Visit by day tour, or, time-permitting, stay overnight and more intensely appreciate the area.
Hunter Valley Only 2 hours northwest of Sydney, Australia’s oldest producing wine region has become a complete recreational area offering much more than wine tasting - cycling, hot air ballooning, cooking schools, bird watching and horse-riding are just some of the activities available to visitors.
Broken Hill Located in the N.S.W. outback and accessed by plane of on the Indian Pacific, the Silver City has an extensive mining history but is now more of an Australian art town. The famous Brushmen of the Bush – five of Australia’s most respected artists (some now deceased) opened galleries here. Broken Hill is also the gateway to Silverton, the Hollywood of the Outback, Mootwingee National Park, and White Cliffs underground opal mining community.
Lord Howe Island As remote as it is – 2 hours by air from Sydney, Brisbane or Port Macquarie, World Heritage Lord Howe Island attracts more people than are actually allowed on the island at any one time. Plan ahead to avoid disappointment; its rare collection of plants, birds, marine life and exceptional natural beauty make Lord Howe a ‘must see’.
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Melbourne Australia’s cultural capital, Melbourne is synonymous with the finer things in life – haute cuisine and couture, theater, cafes, architecture – and has been repeatedly voted the World’s Most Livable City.
Great Ocean Road Starting in Geelong, about an hour southwest of Melbourne, and stretching to Nelson near the South Australian border, the Great Ocean Road is Australia’s most scenic drive. Do it yourself or take a guided tour.
Phillip Island Penguin Parade is most commonly undertaken as an afternoon and evening tour from Melbourne, we don’t recommend a self-drive. As well as the nightly Penguin Parade, a visit to Phillip Island can and should also include a stop at the Koala sanctuary.
Yarra Valley Wine Country Only an hour from Melbourne, this is a picture-book region with the delightful enticement of tasting and purchasing excellent Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.
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Hobart Australia’s southernmost capital city, Hobart is anything but a backwater. Artisans and craftspeople have flocked to Hobart and the Saturday Salamanca Place market has become a major showplace for their work. Try to time your Tasmania visit accordingly.
Port Arthur Why is this idyllic and peaceful setting so haunting? Perhaps those stories about the ghosts of convicts are true. The impressive architecture and delightful grounds of this prison colony survive today for you to explore, if you’re brave you might take the evening Ghost Tour.
Freycinet National Park Almost every calendar and coffee table book of Tasmania includes photographs of Freycinet’s icon - Wineglass Bay, a perfect crescent of fine white sand lapped by crystal clear, azure waters against a backdrop of wild bush land. In reality, it is even more beautiful.
Cradle Mountain National Park Captivating alpine scenery and a range of hikes and activities, including Spa treatments at the famous Cradle Mountain Lodge, make this one of Australia’s most beloved National Parks.
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Darwin, the gateway to Kakadu, Katherine and Litchfield National Parks, is itself full of history, Aboriginal culture, and a great Crocodile park and a Pearling museum. The Darwin Harbour is twice the size of Sydney Harbour, and is surrounded by sandy beaches, beautiful mangroves, and cultured pearl farms, and a Harbor Cruise is recommended. The famous Mindil Beach Night Market is held every Thursday evening and Sunday afternoon, from April until October and features over 240 stalls with different kinds of foods and snacks, art and crafts, and live entertainment.
Kakadu National Park 170 miles east of Darwin, is a must-see for any traveler visiting the Northern Territory. Listed as a World Heritage site, Kakadu National Park is an ecological and cultural gemstone. Exploring the park, you can see crocodiles, wallabies, dingos, goannas, exotic birds, and much more. Kakadu National Park is also rich in Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal rock images.
Katherine You'll get the full outback experience as you explore Katherine's national parks, natural gorges, and wide array of wildlife. Katherine allows you to partake in a number of activities such as canoeing, fishing, and boating. We recommend taking a Gecko Tour.
Alice Springs Almost in the exact center of the continent ‘The Alice’ is 625 miles from the nearest ocean and 940 miles from the nearest major cities, Darwin and Adelaide, and is a desert oasis of stunning ranges, refreshing waterholes, palm trees, awesome colors and amazing wildlife.
Ayers Rock, the world’s largest monolith, is one of the world's most beautiful natural wonders. With over 65 tours, local activities and attractions within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, your days will be action-packed.
Kings Canyon Set within Watarrka National Park, about 200 miles from Alice Springs, Kings Canyon features a scenic landscape of rugged sandstone ranges, rock-holes, and moist gorges. Kings Canyon is also home to many waterholes and areas of lush vegetation, which contain more than 600 plant species, 100 bird species, and 60 species of reptiles.
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Adelaide, built on the Torrens River, is known as the wine capital of Australia. There are several major wine growing regions within an hour's drive of the city. The city itself is lively and fun, and the morning markets are the best place to start your day.
Kangaroo Island Australia in miniature. From the idyllic, deserted beaches, to the wildlife roaming freely, to the predominantly sheep faming lifestyle that is the basis of the economy, visiting Kangaroo Island is like stepping back in time and seeing Australia as it was. Stay in a bed and breakfast and meet the locals to truly understand the Kangaroo Island culture.
Flinders and Gawler Ranges The most accessible Outback destination, only hours from Adelaide, and, as many visitors are discovering, captivating in an entirely different way to its northern, more well-known outback counterpart. More diverse, and far less touristed than the Red Center, Flinders and Gawler Ranges offer an intense, authentic experience. For more information about the Opal Outback, click here.
Coober Pedy has evolved into one of the most unusual places in Australia and perhaps the world. It is a cosmopolitan town with a population of 3,500 and over 45 different nationalities. Coober Pedy is probably best known for its unique style of underground living. There is a range of underground accommodation (as well as above ground if you prefer). There are authentic underground homes to explore as well as underground museums, potteries, opal shops, an art gallery and, of course, opal mines. For more information about the Opal Outback, click here.
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Perth, brimming with activity and history, is located alongside the peaceful waters of the Swan River, twelve miles inland of the Indian Ocean on the west coast of Australia. Fremantle lies just south of Perth on the coast and is a popular spot, where you will find markets, entertainment and plenty of alfresco style cafes and eateries. A short ferry ride from Perth or Fremantle is Rottnest Island, a popular destination where you can meet the Quokka, a unique little marsupial responsible for the islands name. Perth is the gateway to the Pinnacles, Wave Rock and Margaret River wine area.
Broome It’s the colors that you’ll remember. The azure waters of the Indian Ocean lap white beaches against a backdrop of pindan cliffs which change color from pink to red at the setting of the sun. The world’s largest pearling area, Broome is a fusion of Australian and Asian architecture and people, and gateway to the Kimberley.
The Kimberley Even today the Kimberley remains as one of the world’s truly unique wilderness areas - a wild and beautiful panorama of rugged mountain ranges, spectacular gorges and majestic waterfalls. An ancient custodian of unexplained cave paintings that predate traditional Aboriginal rock art. An incredibly diverse land inhabited by extraordinary flora and fauna – bastions of rainforest, immense mangrove communities and irreplaceable plant species of countless genera, birds of every imaginable color, marsupials and amphibians, monster fish with renown fighting ability and even more celebrated eating quality, and the infamous crocodile. Overland from Broome to Darwin is one of the world’s great four wheel drive safaris.
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